Having Fun, Giving Hope with Up 'Til Dawn

Sharon Glenn has spent many hours up 'til dawn concerned about her younger brother's health and his treatments at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. So it's appropriate she and her husband, Daniel, are helping organize Tennessee Tech University's ambitious Up 'Til Dawn celebration benefiting the hospital.

Glenn's brother, Russell, then 7-years old, was treated for a rare tumor at St. Jude with a unique treatment based on original research. Russell's prognosis was bleak, and her working parents had no health insurance to cover his treatment. She's convinced the trips to Memphis saved his life.

"Even though my brother was being treated at a reputable hospital known for excellence in fighting childhood diseases, they didn't have the research knowledge to diagnose and treat Russell," she said. "St. Jude did. And when unexpected circumstances left my parents without insurance, St. Jude was the one place it didn't matter."

St. Jude treats 180 children on an outpatient basis daily and maintains 56 inpatient beds -- and covers all costs associated with the treatment. The hospital's daily operating costs are approximately $515,000, which are primarily covered by public contributions.

Glenn says during the two years of traveling from Brentwood to Memphis for treatments, St. Jude took care of hotel bills and meal expenses, and even offered to pay for gas.

Because she's seen first hand how a child's life-threatening illness can take a toll on a family's emotions and finances -- and how rare diseases can leave even the most knowledgeable doctors searching for answers -- she's an advocate for supporting St. Jude with time and money. That's the focus of the Up 'Til Dawn event at TTU.

Up 'til Dawn will be the culmination of almost a year of efforts by students and community members, which include an upcoming benefit dinner on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 6 p.m. in the Roaden University Center Multipurpose Room hosted by TTU President Bob Bell and his wife, Gloria, and Tennessee Tech students. The actual Up 'Til Dawn celebration on March 23 will be a 12-hour session of dancing and activities where volunteers will conclude and celebrate their fundraising activities.

Anna LaBar, the executive director of Up 'Til Dawn, says TTU's goal is the most ambitious one ever attempted by a university raising funds for St. Jude.

"Our goal is to raise $125,000; that pays for about six hours of operating costs for the hospital," said LaBar. "The largest university effort so far has been about $55,000, and the average is about $25,000, but we think our goal is realistic because this community and Tech have been so supportive."

Glenn says her now healthy 16-year-old brother had friends at St. Jude who died before cures were found for their diseases, and that's all the motivation she and her husband need to get involved.

"We've been back to visit St. Jude and have seen what donations have meant not only to increase research, but to create patient care wings with aquariums, to equip chemotherapy rooms with televisions and video games and computers -- it all makes such an impact on children who suffer so greatly," Glenn said. "It is an amazing place."

The Feb. 3 dinner hosted by the Bell's will include entertainment, door prizes and information about St. Jude. The cost is $25 per person and is planned as an event for the whole community.

To make reservations or donations, call LaBar at 372-3471.